WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass on Twitter) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock -- hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Sally) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted (how?) into two piles -- the "buy" pile (a small pile most weeks, comprised of planned purchases) and the "read" pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Thursday afternoons you'll be able to get his thoughts (and they're just the opinions of one guy, so calm down) about all of that... which goes something like this...
THE BUY PILE FOR NOVEMBER 4TH, 2009
Jump from the Read Pile.
Here's the situation: it's hard as hell to launch a new comic book property in the modern marketplace, and you've got some crazy ideas from one of your marquis creatives, just lying around. They also happen to have their origins based in the world's largest population, and have cool names to boot. It'd be nice if it went well, but there's a huge chance it could mess up... wait, what's that? You have the mind behind "Crux" on board, Tony Bedard? That guy was good with teams. Scott McDaniel pencils too? That guy's good, and the rest of the art team rounded out by Andy Owens and The Hories looks good. That's smart. Wait, hang on, the plot's cleverly balanced between perfectly paced flashbacks and politically charged present events, showcasing a team that's not exactly perfectly united in their service to the People's Republic and, oh, yeah, happen to kick some serious butt. Sure, there's some derivative elements (the central figure here, Accomplished Perfect Physician, clearly shares some influences with another medically themed generational hero) but there's greatly entertaining stuff here and the story keeps turning up the stakes in a very interesting way. Well worth watching if it can keep all these plates spinning.
Wow. There are some truly, scarily terrible comic books chronicled here. There are things that happened here that could literally frighten people away from comics. Like what? Well, page one, "Duel with Devil DInosaur." That's a Spider-Man book from around the turn of the century. Or when Tony Stark transformed himself into white collar worker "Hogan Potts," who gets a job at a promising tech firm that almost goes under due to Iron Man combat, and then the CEO slept with his plain Jane alter ego, because hot tech CEOs are so common and so likely to shtup random employees. Oh, yeah, and apparently Cain Marko, the Juggernaut, actually joined the "Uncanny X-Men" at one point, and there was a plan to make Nightcrawler the pope. Wait, what? Oh, and while we're at it, let's remember the issue of "Amazing Spider-Man" where Dr. Doom and Magneto, who have personally killed mountains' worth of people, standing at Ground Zero ("What's that? The mutant super criminal and the internationally hated dictator? Oh, sure, they can go down to the site... firefighters' widows? Screw those broads...") "stunned" and "shedding a tear for the deaths of innocents." Seriously? This issue of the index is like a reminder: never again. "You Da Man" computer virus and Tiberius Stone's "Dream Vision?" Never again. Warren Worthington making out with Sam Guthrie's little sister (who has to be decades younger than him)? Never again. Spider-Man and clones? Never a... oh, wait. Let's just move on.
A new book in the "Fables" universe? Done and done. The Fables' Hand (apologies to Mara Jade) plays the Booster Gold/Bruce Wayne card and fosters the image of a selfish dilettante while engaging in espionage and murder in the name of the community's interests. The issue, perfectly scripted by Chris Roberson, sets things up while never slowing down the plot, serving up more smirks and laughs than recent issues of "Jack of Fables" while reaching for the heights of the core series. The characters' faces, from Shawn McManus, could be a little more consistent (why does Beast look like he's yelling at Cindy? His Totenkinder's perfect, though), but the visual storytelling is solid. An excellent spin-off for the franchise and another gem from Vertigo.
Jump from the Read Pile.
If someone told you, two years ago, that Parker Robbins would become a name to inspire as well as making up one-half of one of the best doomed romances since Mickey and Mallory pulled a trigger, you'd be like, "wait, who?" Believe it -- Christos Gage, Manuel Garcia, Scott Hanna and Chris Sotomayor get it together to craft a tale that sticks to the rules of storytelling in making this final, improbable chapter both inevitable and surprising, and do so effectively. Robbins' attempts at showing selfishness and indifference hide his concern for the motley crew of miscreants, and Whitney Frost steps up in a way that'd make Trinity and Tammy Wynette proud, setting the stage for the eventual "House of M" events and giving them shocking new resonance. Deeply surprising.
Wait, what? Regular team Simone and Scott aren't here? Dude, what the... hang on, comics legend John Ostrander's on board? Ooh. That guy J. Calafiore is also on board? Oh, he's good, he's been super underestimated ever since he was on "Black Panther." What's that you say? The whole issue is dedicated to Deadshot, focusing on him trying to contain his bloodlust? Well, that does sound good, doesn't it? Well, wow, Deadshot reveals his long history with Gotham City and shows some new depths and breadth to his character? Smartly told, smartly depicted, great work.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
That's one hell of a pile of comic books! Nice!
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
"Absolution" #3 was well plotted and drawn, an interesting story about a super-powered vigilante who decides to really take the law into his own hands, but it lacked characterization on its lead, had a mild plot wiggle on a climactic point and played itself a little too simplistically for the complex subject matter. Worth watching, though.
"Assault on New Olympus" was very close, with Hercules finally reuniting with his estranged wife and punching the hell out of Peter Parker while he does it. The problem was, the fight was a standard hero cliché that actually delayed the important events happening with Athena and Amadeus Cho, while brushing against some of the issues with Agents of Atlas right now. Cute, but doesn't really get you anywhere, unless you're a Hercules completist.
"Magog" #3 was a big surprise, as the matter-of-fact narration really sells the story and effectively depicts a "loony" new villain who's got something seriously dangerous going on. Working well on personality and discovering just how powerful the protagonist is, but with an ending that stops way too short and could have used a little more room to figure out where it was going.
The noirish stylings of "Stumptown" #1 were okay, fitting a pretty good private eye tale in a $3.99 package. Wait, what? Four bucks? This was all right, but it wasn't four bucks worth of all right.
"Immortal Weapons" #4 was okay. Unfortunately, it had some similar thematic elements to the previous issue (DOG BROTHER NUMBA ONE!) but made the mystical city that's the home of Tiger's Beautiful Daughter... well, a town fulla pansies. No wonder they didn't win the tournament and get a better slot in the "when they connect to earth" rotation. An heiress with bloodlust... well, it could be more.
"G.I. Joe" #11 was way too little for what it needed to be, skimming past Mindbender and Destro's rivalry at gunpoint and using Stalker to keep a lotta people just standing around and then skim past the Snake-Eyes storyline. Still, good art, good action (nice work with Scarlett and the technology is great) but doesn't quite get across the finish line.
With Dorkhawk, sorry, Darkhawk as the focal character, it was hard for "Nova" #31 to get anything done, even though it had the great momentum of last issue and a Kilowog-styled new character on board. Still, the embittered weirdo in the armor managed some good action and was firmly in character, but there are plot elements here that just didn't stand up (and wouldn't be fair to spoil either way).
Would you like to see Bruce Wayne happy? Well, "Batman: The Widening Gyre" #3 shows you what that looks like, fitting in a kooky guest appearance from the original Aquaman, but doesn't really accomplish anything that looks like driving a plot, and this is like the part of the movie just before the car blows up. Just kind of treading water, here.
"Astonishing X-Men" #32 had great quotes from Henry McCoy, but had a plot that... well, it took several page to address the challenge of a single Sentinel, and spun its wheels for far too long. Not "astonishing" at all, despite the visual prettiness.
"Mayhem" #3 felt like the last stage of a video game, where your character has to go up against an increasingly dangerous series of bosses to get to the "big boss," who (of course) is waiting for you at the end. Ambitious, but not exactly making it work.
After the great success of Jericho Drumm last issue, "Doctor Voodoo, Avenger of the Supernatural" #2 fell into whininess and self doubt, with Damian Hellstrom punking the new sorcerer supreme and a supernatural supervillain making the first of two appearances this week (plus the last issue of "Avengers: The Initiative"), each less plausible than the one before.
"Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #4 had some really interesting parts between Mary Jane, Peter, and Gwen Stacy, but the book digressed and fell down on the job, despite (again) effective artwork. Close, but not close enough.
"Greek Street" #5 continued its quest towards comprehensibility, and got closer. Keep working on that.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Psylocke" #1, "Authority" #16, "Deadpool Team-Up" #899 (how do you have Herc and 'Pool together and it not be funny? Also appearance #1 for said villain), "Project Superpowers: Meet The Bad Guys" #3, "X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas" #2, "Doom Patrol" #4, "Haunt" #2, "Black Widow: Deadly Origin" #1 and "X-Men Origins: Iceman"
No, just... no... These comics? Not so much...
"Captain America Reborn" #4 was, without a doubt, the worst comic of the week. Really. The last page is so outlandishly insulting and pointless, so retrograde and pointless, it boggles the mind. Plus, what the heck is Bucky doing with a freaking Luger? There's an American-made pistol unsold somewhere, pal! Cowboy up!
Close to that level of stupidity, "Superman: World of New Krypton" #9 had Jemm, the Son of Saturn go all "Phantom Menace" and introduce a point of order with punching... as so many procedural events unfold. While many people, in fact, do believe that Jemm is excitement and that Jemm is adventure, glamor and glitter, fashion and fame... well, let's just say he's not a guest star that thrills or enlightens.
"Kill Audio" #2... really, WTH? No idea whatsoever what this was all about.
"Deathlok the Demolisher" #1 is like "Starship Troopers" had sex with reality television and slapped Marvel-centric brand names on it. Why? Not quite sure. Really, did anybody "demand" this?
"Mighty" #10 -- which wasn't that bad a series before this issue -- stepped deep into a crevasse full of stupitron, revealing Alpha One's motivations and plans (bad ideas all) and either tried a big shift in character that didn't work or is trying the old Trojan horse (which would also be a bad idea). Simply put, no.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
There was an attempt to review both "Ghostbusters: Displaced Aggression" #3 and "Titanium Rain Double Sized" #3 and #4, but neither was ordered by the retailer. Sorry.
Still, way less bad stuff than tolerable material.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
What, two jumps? Only five true stinkers? That's a great week working it out!
Got a comic you think should be reviewed in The Buy Pile? If we get a PDF of a fairly normal length comic (i.e. "less than 64 pages") by no later than 24 hours before the actual issue arrives in stores (and sorry, we can only review comics people can go to stores and buy), we guarantee the work will get reviewed, if remembered. Physical comics? Geddouttahere. Too much drama to store with diminishing resources. If you send it in more than two days before comics come out, the possibility of it being forgotten increases exponentially.
There are now two official ways to get Hannibal Tabu's blog-related wisdom. For all personal things, there's Hannibal's relaunched Soapbox and for his views on the weird, wild world there's The Hundred and Four.